It was baptized with the name

"San Marziano"

and is intended to meet the needs of astronauts for long-term missions in space.

This is the

biofortified dwarf tomato

, patented by

Enea

, the National Agency for new technologies, energy and sustainable economic development. 

The long space journeys of the future

also require us to think about the diet of astronauts, just as

climate change

forces us to think about Earth's diet in the event of extreme conditions.

The product is enriched with antioxidant molecules, capable of resisting the radiation of the space environment.

"In the roadmap of human exploration of deep space in which the Moon will be a fundamental step towards Mars, astronauts will have to self-support with the resources available", explains

Silvia Massa

of the Enea Biotechnology Laboratory in a statement released by the Agency.

"These plants - she adds - will provide fresh and healthy food without the need for supplies from Earth and will represent the main source of high-value molecules, such as antioxidants and biopharmaceuticals, to support life in future space outposts". 

In this scenario, in fact, the confined environment, the different conditions of gravity compared to the Earth and ionizing radiation will affect not only human health, but also the productivity of plants and the quality of food, potentially generating oxidative stress and damage. to DNA. 

Since 2014, Enea has been conducting studies on the cultivation of edible plants in an extraterrestrial environment

as part of the

Bioxtreme project

, developed together with the Italian Space Agency.

As part of the

Hortspace project

, researchers then assessed productivity and quality requirements in space by studying the impact of radiation on plants.

Space exploration has always represented a powerful accelerator of technologies for applications on Earth, where the use of technological innovation in agriculture is urgently needed to cope with the increase in the world population, the reduction of cultivable surfaces and the effects of climate change .

Enea's research on biotechnology aims at the development of both plants resistant to extreme conditions (deserts, Antarctic bases or disadvantaged environments such as military bases) and "biofactory" plants for the production of molecules of pharmaceutical interest.